May will warn ‘nothing is agreed’ ahead of trade talks
THERESA MAY will insist today that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” on the terms of Brexit after the Irish government claimed that last week’s preliminary deal was binding.
The Prime Minister will say in the House of Commons that although she is optimistic a deal can be reached, last week’s agreement is contingent on such an outcome.
Mrs May will also face her first meeting with Cabinet ministers today as potentially acrimonious discussions begin about Britain’s long-term relationship with the EU. She is expected to say: “This is not about a hard or a soft Brexit… there is, I believe, a new sense of optimism now in the talks and I fully hope and expect that we will confirm the arrangements I have set out today in the European Council later this week.”
However, the Irish dispute may now overshadow discussions between EU leaders later this week. It was sparked when David Davis, the Exiting the European Union secretary, insisted the deal guaranteeing no hard border was not “legally enforceable”.
The Irish government insisted that the agreement was “binding” and it would hold the UK “to account” on it.
Brexit-supporting MPS are worried that the UK has already committed to “full alignment” with the EU on regulations and standards that impacted on Northern Ireland.
Mr Davis told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “This was a statement of intent more than anything else. Much more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing.”
Last night Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister said that the UK had given a “clear and positive statement” that Friday’s deal would be “upheld in all circumstances, irrespective of the nature of any future agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom”.
Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, hailed the deal meant to prevent the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic as “politically bullet-proof ” and “cast iron”.
DAVID DAVIS said Britain will strike a “Canada plus plus plus” Brexit deal as Labour signalled it wants to keep the UK tied to the single market forever.
The Brexit Secretary said he believed a substantive deal could be struck with Brussels within a year, while Sir Keir Starmer, his opposite number, set out a blueprint which could result in the UK continuing to pay into the European Union’s budget after withdrawal.
Sir Keir also refused to rule out calling another EU referendum which could reverse the 2016 result.
The emergence of the parties’ opposing Brexit visions came ahead of a statement from Theresa May in the House of Commons this afternoon when she is expected to stress that there is now a “new sense of optimism” in talks with the EU.
Mr Davis’s backing for a Canada-style trade deal appeared to place him on a collision course with Remain-supporting colleagues, and comes just over a week before the Cabinet is due to hold a crunch discussion over what it wants the “end state” of Brexit talks to be.
Mr Davis said he wanted to see an “overarching trade deal” based on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) which grants Canada increased access to the European single market and eliminates the vast majority of tariffs on goods traded with the EU.
He suggested it could be used as a starting point for a wider-ranging EU/ UK deal which he described as “Canada plus plus plus”. He said: “We will probably start with the best of Canada, the best of Japan and the best of South Korea and then add to that the bits that are missing – which are the services.”
The Brexit Secretary claimed the odds of a no deal Brexit had “dropped dramatically”, and rebuked Mr Hammond over the Chancellor’s recent suggestion the UK would pay its multi-billion pound Brexit bill even if a trade deal is not agreed. Mr Davis insisted paying the bill would be “conditional on a trade outcome”.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir set out a Labour vision for Brexit which would see the UK remain closely aligned to the single market and continue to pay into the EU’S budget. It would also include “easy movement” for EU citizens while businesses would have to comply with Brussels’ rules despite Britain no longer having a say when they are written.
He said he wanted the UK to strike a Norway-style deal with the EU. The Scandinavian country is a member of the European Economic Area which means it has full access to the single market but must accept freedom of movement and EU rules.
Norway also contributes to the EU’S budget, and research undertaken by the House of Commons Library in 2013 showed that in 2011 it paid in £106 per person while the UK’S net contribution was £128 per capita.
Sir Keir suggested the UK could follow the same path. “There may have to be payments – that would have to be negotiated,” he said. On immigration, Sir Keir said “the end of free movement doesn’t mean no movement”, and when asked if he was advocating “easy movement” for EU and UK citizens, he said: “Yes of course.”
Labour’s plan would also result in the UK having to adhere to EU regulations to maintain a “level playing field”.
Mr Davis seized on Sir Keir’s comments and said: “A Labour Brexit would betray voters and leave this country in the worst possible position.”
Sir Keir also refused to rule out calling a second EU referendum. “Things are moving so fast it is hard to know what is going to come next but we are not calling for it,” he said